Photo Courtesy of Hillsboro Wrestling
The Hillsboro Hawks varsity wrestling team traveled to the prestigious Neosho Tournament on Saturday and turned in an impressive performance. The Hawks placed fifth with 121.5 points, just one point away from fourth place Belton. Neosho won the event with 251 points.
Hillsboro only took ten wrestlers this weekend. “I was really happy with our focus and approach this weekend,” head coach Matt Mitchell commented. “With so many freshmen and sophomores in the line-up, that has been a big focus for us as coaches…making sure these guys are in the right mindset and ready. Win or lose, we are coaching the kids on their approach to the next match.”
This is the third year Hillsboro made the trip to Neosho, and the athletes look forward to the competition. “We have a group of kids that expect to go there and compete,” Mitchell pointed out. “That being said, we took five freshmen this weekend. I thought it was a great learning experience for all of them. This trip also helps our group bond together a little bit. It was a good weekend.”
The Hawks had seven wrestlers in the top four, and eight wrestlers placed. Dalton Litzsinger led the way for Hillsboro. The sophomore hauled in 26 team points with a first place finish in the 138 pound weight class. He went 5-0 and won each match by fall. In the championship match, Litzsinger pinned a wrestler from Farmington in 3:57. “Dalton won his second straight Neosho title,” Mitchell emphasized. “He was dominant in his finals match. I thought he wrestled really well all day. He had a great semi match as well, and was able to come up with points when he needed them.” Litzsinger was very pleased. “Today was a great day for our team,” he said. “Everyone was ready to go to war every time they stepped on the stripe. I think that through the day, I had to continue taking mental notes and thinking through my positions so that they were better in the next match. I’m excited about the accomplishment, but there is more work to be done and bigger goals ahead.”
Gavin Alexander also made it to the finals. The freshman finished in second place in the 106 division. He won two matches by fall, another by a decision (8-2), but was pinned in the championship match by a wrestler from Neosho. “Gavin wrestled the best of everyone all day,” Mitchell put it bluntly. “Unfortunately, he made a mistake in the finals, and it cost him. One of the main reasons we come to the Neosho Tournament is to see kids we will eventually see at the state tournament. Gavin may see that kid again. That alone makes it worth the trip for us. Gavin will bounce back this week.” Alexander said this was a chance to learn a lesson. “I was winning and got caught in a cradle,” he admitted. “I’m going back to the wrestling room to improve on bottom and other fundamentals.”
Sophomore Jordan Jarvis also finished in second place in the 285 division. Three falls and a tech fall led him to the finals. A Neosho wrestler was able to pin him in the championship match. Coach Mitchell said it was a very important day for Jarvis. “Jordan had a huge day. In his first ever varsity tournament, he took second. He beat some really good kids along the way. I think this is a big confidence boost for Jordan. He works as hard as anyone in the room. He spent all week staying after practice and working with the coaches this week on things. You could see his confidence grow as the day went on.” Jarvis noted he felt support throughout the day. “Today was long, but every match, the team was by my side and watched me and supported me through the day. I feel pretty good about today. I wish I got first, but now the only thing I can do is go back to the practice room and focus on Farmington and Washington.”
Griffin Ray (145) and Evan Morris (120) both placed third in their respective weight classes. Ray lost a decision to a wrestler from Willard, but then won four consecutive matches, culminating with a third place win by fall (5:18) over a Farmington wrestler. “Ray beat a junior two-time state medalist from Neosho,” Coach Mitchell pointed out. “That was a big win for him. He came up short against another junior state qualifier from Willard, but again, that’s why we come. Now we have seen these guys, and it will pay off down the road. We seek out these tough tournaments.” Ray said he hasn’t lost sight that he’s just a freshman and still has some adjusting to do at the high school level. “Coaches help me get prepared,” he said. “I feel like I am at my best right now, and know I will continue to keep getting better in the practice room. I love this sport.” Morris lost in the fifth round to a Farmington wrestler, but went 4-1, winning a 3-0 decision in the third place match over a Bentonville West wrestler. “Morris also wrestled great,” Mitchell said. “He got a lot better as the day went on. In his four wins, he actually wasn’t scored on at all, and his one loss was to a returning state champion.”
Zach McNees finished fourth at 182 and went 3-2 on the day. James Short (132) finished fourth as well, also going 3-2. The final wrestler to place was Aidan Haggard at 113. He went 2-3 and finished in seventh place.
Tomorrow, the Hawks will travel to Farmington to take on the Knights, as well as the Washington Blue Jays. The tri-meet begins at 5:00 p.m.